It is mid-August, which means that the annual Perseid meteor shower is active, and will last until August 24. The Persians are one of the best, brightestand even though they have already reached the top, it may be easier to see them now with the moon entering its dark phase.
This famous shower comes around this time every year when the earth passes through a cloud of debris left by the giant comet 109P / Swift-Tuttle. Dust pieces, rocks and other cosmic detritus melt into our atmosphere and burn up to short, bright stripes and even occasional full-blown fireballs that streak across the night sky.
Technically, Perseid’s 2020 peaked in the evening of Tuesday 11 August and the morning of Wednesday 12 August, but that does not mean that the show is over. Far from it, in fact. The moon is just a small crescent moon in the night sky Monday night and will be an invisible new moon that begins Tuesday night. There is a small light source in the sky to wash out all these Perseids.
The popularity of the shower is a combination of the fact that it is one of the strongest, with up to 100 visible meteors per hour on average, and it coincides with hot summer nights in the northern hemisphere.
2020 Perseid meteor shower images shine brightly during a dark year
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In general, a good strategy is to go out to look for the Persians as late in the evening as possible, but it’s worth seeing what you can when you can.
This shower at the half top with completely dark skies can be about the same as a full top with a bright moon, so do not think that you have already missed it if you did not take the top.
Once you have decided on the perfect time and a place with minimal light disturbance and a wide view of the sky, just sit back, let your eyes adjust and relax. Pillows, blankets, sun loungers and refreshments make the perfect experience. It can take about 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, so be sure to be patient. If you follow all my advice, you are guaranteed to see a meteor.
It does not matter where in the sky you see, as long as you have a wide view. That said, the Persians seem to radiate from the constellation Perseus, the hero. If you want to practice being an advanced meteor spotter, find Perseus and try to focus there while you watch. Then just try to look up without focusing anywhere. See if you notice a difference. We are still dealing with the unpredictability of nature, so the results will vary.
It’s probably the best part of Perseid’s every year the wonderful photos we get from talented astrophotographers who spend long nights out.
As always, if you catch any beauties yourself, please share them with me on Twitter or Instagram @EricCMack.